Though you may think that studying all afternoon without a break will improve your performance, research finds that taking breaks benefits your well-being and exam prep effectiveness.
Micro-breaks, brain breaks, and longer periods of recovery can reduce stress and boost your performance, experts find. By adding intentional rest to your study schedule, you will also improve your ability to retain items that stumped you when you first learned them.
What Is Intentional Rest?
Let’s start by debunking a common misconception about rest: It is not always a passive activity. Rest can also be an active activity. “Intentional rest” is a relatively new term coined by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, referring to an activity that is psychologically and physically restorative, personally meaningful, and mentally productive. The term is synonymous with “active rest” and “purposeful relaxation.”
“Intentional rest should give you the energy and the fortitude to push through any hurdle you are facing, like a FINRA exam.”
What Intentional Rest Did for Me
When I considered taking intentional rest time for myself, I did not believe I deserved the time off. At the same time, I knew that scientific studies find that rest is vital to sustaining a happy and balanced life, especially in situations where high-performance stress comes into play.
For me, intentional rest took the form of exploring my creativity by painting in a splatter room that my family created. That is where we go to laugh and create art. Contrary to what I originally thought, taking time off proved to be restorative and energizing.
What Is Active Versus Passive Rest?
Intentional rest should give you the energy and the fortitude to push through any hurdle you are facing, like a FINRA exam. Active rest occurs when you take time away from anything digital, such as your phone.
Active rest activities should be fun and meaningful:
- Go outside to garden, walk, or talk with friends or family.
- Take a yoga class.
- Get together with coworkers for lunch with no phones in tow.
- Engage in a fun activity with friends in an escape room or a splatter room.
Passive rest activities allow you to focus on just one thing:
- Meditate. Try to introduce this practice daily.
- Use breathing techniques from Study Essentials to calm you.
- Use positive affirmations to counteract negative thoughts. Instead of saying, “I can’t learn this,” say, “I may not have known this when I started, but I am working hard, learning the information and hard work pays off.”
“Breaks allow the brain to consolidate information and retain it better.”
How to Apply Intentional Rest for Exam Prep
Introduce intentional and consistent recovery breaks into your test prep routine to create a new habit. For example, if you are in the middle of an exam and you start to have jumbled thoughts or your mind wanders to something that is not on the exam:
- Take a few minutes to do breathwork. Resetting your breathing will regulate your heart rate and help manage anxiety. If the first breath cycle doesn’t work, do it a few times to get your back into the right mindset to continue the exam.
If you are deep in content review and you have been studying for a few hours, give your brain a break:
- Go outside for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement help with the “information overload” you may be experiencing.
How often should you take breaks while studying? At Knopman Marks, we encourage students to follow the 50-10 Rule. For every 50 minutes spent studying, allow yourself a 10-minute break. Building a 10-minute break into every hour helps you avoid burning out. These breaks also allow you to be more focused and productive during designated work time.
Consider adding intentional breaks to your exam prep process to reboot your energy so you can perform at your best.